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Kids @ Cons [Jan. 27th, 2010|04:29 pm]
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[mood |quixoticquixotic]

Way back in '91, (or was it '92?) I ran a convention and very deliberately insisted on a panel about being a parent and staying active in fandom. It had two two fan mums on it. Back at that point, I think I knew three people with kids that were still active fans.

There were quite a few more who had basically dropped out for various reasons - time/money constraints, had moved on to other interests, lost interest in fandom in the face of the new little person who needed them, just felt they couldn't do both, etc.

That was why I wanted this panel, because there were people dropping out simply because they didn't think they could do both, be a parent and an active fan. I wanted people to be able to hear from some parents who were still going to cons and clubs, and to be able to pick up some tips, so they could do the same if they wanted to.

What amazed me was the sheer lack of attendance. Especially by women who were talking about having children themselves. Because, to me, it wasn't a subject that was just about keeping yourself in fandom, it was about how to maintain the aspects of your life that you wanted to hang on to in the face of the world altering addition of another person in your life.

I thought this way a decade and a half before I even had kids, because I knew that many people will end up looking after a child at some point. And it'd be a shame to lose them simply because they didn't think they could do the stuff that they enjoyed, and still care for their kid. No-one wins in that scenario.

There are people who say that kids shouldn't be allowed at cons, and I can honestly see their point. Kids can be disruptive, excitable, loud, and annoying. They can run around, bump into people, and wave things about with no regard for the people nearby who might be hit. They can be a huge imposition to those around them who genuinely shouldn't have to put up with it. People have paid to enjoy the convention, they shouldn't have that enjoyment lessened by some out of control child.

Of course there are more than a few adult fans the above paragraph applies to as well. I can think of instances where I have seen supposedly mature adults doing all these things. In some cases at con after con after con.

Shall we stop them coming to cons too? 'Cause I'm sure I can easily list a few names that I'd rather not attend cons any more. People who always fucking yell stuff out from the audience whether it's warranted or not, especially the ones who think they're funny. Who drink too much and then proceed to be completely obnoxious fucking tools for the rest of the night. Panelists that never seem to prepare, or who always seem to talk over the top of their fellow panelists. Con-runners that never try to do a good job, but always aim for average, and con-runners that will step on whomever they please because running cons is not about community but power.

These people seriously lessen my con experience. They lessen it substantially more than any child ever has. (Except perhaps my own, but he basically kept us trapped in our room most of the time, and was pretty delightful to everyone else, so I'm prepared to put up with him - for now!)

But, you know, at the end of the day, if a child is acting up in any way, the first person who is aware of it is usually the parent. In fact, they will often be cringing. They will usually try to sort the situation out in fairly short order, and if they can't, they will take the child and leave. And as annoyed as you may be by the two minutes of a kid annoying you, how about a bit of thought for the poor parent who has to leave the item they wanted to see and continue dealing with the unruly child.

Oh there are some selfish parents. People who will just let their kid do what it wants, won't keep an eye on it, or worse, will expect other people to do so without being asked. But you know, it's not hard to go up to them and ask them to do something about their disruptive child. And if you don't want to be the bad guy, it's usually not hard to find a committee member who can do it for you.

I have Chaired four conventions and been on several committees, but I've never had a situation where I had to ask a parent to take their child and leave. I have, however, had occasion to chastise and threaten with expulsion a couple of adults, and I've had to ask one professional author to leave a con for breaking convention rules that he was well aware of beforehand.

Maybe kids don't belong at cons, but I prefer their behaviour to some of the adults who attend, because at least the children have a legitimate excuse to behave immaturely.

[User Picture]From: indefensiblepos
2010-01-28 08:53 am (UTC)
Good man. Wish you were around so this individual: http://terrycat.livejournal.com/296779.html (with relevant LJ entry linked in case you are unaware) could be deservingly perma-banned from Swancon.

Would it be possible to hire you for security details at cons? Maybe that is an answer a con guard who has the role of just ejecting the unruly, disruptive and worse regardless of age. Acutally trainofthoughtyping this is sounding like a better idea by the second. Rather than hoping the average concom member is going to have the nature to do such a thing someone with those talents should be appointed by the rest of the concom specifically for the purpose.
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[User Picture]From: cassiphone
2010-01-28 08:54 am (UTC)
... don't all cons have security officers/teams?

I kind of thought this was standard.

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[User Picture]From: indefensiblepos
2010-01-28 10:16 am (UTC)
Not at Swancon to my knowledge.

Which may well be why this is the great drama it has become.

Can any of the concom confirm/deny the presence of a security team for the control and possible ejection of any of the wide range of offenders mentioned here and elsewhere (from babies to centarians) at this or any previous Swancon?
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[User Picture]From: indefensiblepos
2010-01-28 10:19 am (UTC)
centenarians even.
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[User Picture]From: tikiwanderer
2010-01-28 10:32 am (UTC)
I've seen people with "security" badges at Swancons sometime in the distant past, haven't paid much attention in the last few years to see if security's been allocated as a separate role or if it's just been put under the "these people are committee members, they'll deal with your problems" banner.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:29 pm (UTC)
I can't speak for Perth, but over many years we learned over East that it was usually better to get committee to look after security/problems.

See my comment above RE: a threatened strip search by a security team at a con.
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[User Picture]From: prk
2010-01-30 04:46 am (UTC)
None of the concoms I've been on have had an official security team or hired professional security.

However there are several members of the local fan community who work in the security industry.

All of the concoms I've been on have involved asking them for advice, and/or calling one of them if a situation has arisen (eg 2005 had someone wander in off the street causing trouble, who needed to be evicted).

The concoms usually have contingencies in place, and/or have discussed in advance how possible situations would be handled. This has resulted in the few issues that have occurred being dealt with quickly and quietly.

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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-31 02:37 am (UTC)
And quickly and quietly is the ideal. Con Security sometimes does not manage this, because they aren't also running the con. They see their mandate as stopping problems in a quick manner. Con committees see their mandate as running the con as effectively as possible with as little disruption to the members as can managed.

I have seen some great Con Security, but it is far and away in the minority.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:25 pm (UTC)
Most cons basically have the committee keeping their eyes open. The quick version is that having security teams can cause more problems than they solve, if people get a bit gung-ho. This was a lesson learned over many years.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:22 pm (UTC)
There is an issue regarding the person you link to - what they did wasn't at Swancon. That presents a serious problem, because if you're going to start banning people for things they've done outside the con, where do you stop? If someone has been done for shop-lifting, do we not allow them to come to the con?

I'm not trying to trivialise what he did by comparing it to a minor offence, I'm just trying to make the point that it's a complex issue, and it's easy for things to get out of control.

Which leads to the problem with con security - it can go to people's heads. The security can become a bigger problem than any member ever was.

Put it another way, when a female security team drags two people to a room and genuinely threatens to strip search them, not because they think they have stolen anything, but as a way to get information, you've got a problem.

This happened to me and a friend. Fortunately they had picked the worst possible people to try this on, but they didn't know that. My mate and I could have sued the con for the threat alone. We just shrugged it off. But what if we hadn't been the type to shrug it off? What if we had been litigious, or had been traumatised by the experience?

At most cons the committee do security, and that's good enough for me.
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2010-01-30 06:15 am (UTC)
I would like to disagree with you. He groomed me and gained my trust at Swancon. He walked around Swancon with a massage oil bottle in his pocket and massaged con-goers at the drop of a hat. He made a lot of people *very* uncomfortable.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-31 03:14 am (UTC)
I'm well aware of your situation, and it's a horrible one.

What I will say is that if he was making people uncomfortable, then those people needed to say something to the con committee(s). That would allow them to go up to him and say that they've had complaints and so could ask him to stop. If he'd been warned away from such behaviour, he may have been in a lesser position to groom you in the first place.

The committee are busy running cons, it's just not practical to assume they will know that one individual out of 300+ is acting in a way that makes people feel unsafe or uncomfortable if no-one makes the complaint in the first place.

Let me stress, I am not blaming you in any way. However, if other people failed to complain, they have unwittingly helped him by allowing his behaviour to continue unchecked until it's too late, and someone, in this case you, has been hurt.

I studied full body relaxation massage. The reason you've never seen me massage people at cons is that over 30 years I have seen way too many people across Australia who gave massages that I thought crossed the line between massage and groping. For me, I'd rather not give people massages than be potentially thought of as another of the creepy feel-up merchants. The feel-up massagers also tend to gain a group of people who welcome that sort of massage, and will actively and publically ask for one, which further blurs the line for con committees.

I will also state that I have also seen people who give genuine massages, but they do tend to be in the minority.

If you want to know what I would have done if I'd been on committee regarding your situation, write to me directly.
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2010-01-30 06:13 am (UTC)
I don't know who you are, but I want to kiss you.

Edit: I thought it better not to get too personal here. Sorry Danny.

Edited at 2010-01-30 06:25 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-31 03:15 am (UTC)
It's fine. I preferred your longer too personal reply to some of the supposedly logical and reasoned arguments people have posted.
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2010-01-31 04:26 am (UTC)
That's okay, I figured you would get to see it anyway. :)

I keep getting in trouble for not being logical about this whole thing, I'm noticing. Oh well. *sigh*
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